Click pics to enlarge. To the right, the Grommes flanking and atop the Wavac MD-811; in the middle, the WE 133; to the left, Thorens TD-124 MkI with ad-hoc SME "3012".
2018 in Review
It has been quite a stressful year. Due to my leaving HK, for once, I have sold off far more than I have acquired. Although without many new toys, my experience has not been less vital than in years past.
Western Electric + Horns = Great Sound This is a truth, but of course even WE can get mangled in the hands of users with lesser ears. The WE 41/42/43 heard here was not only the best sound of the year, but also likely the best horns I have heard. However, running it very close is the sweet WE 46 system heard here.
Even without using WE, the horns in my NYC circle, three Altec's and my own YL, which I have written a lot on, have all sounded very good.
Sleepers that have given the Best a Run for the Money
This year is just as remarkable for mostly Rediscoveries!
6V6 Amps My two pairs of 6V6 amps heard at Kevin's (here) are now back in my home. I swapped out the Grommes LJ5 for the Wavac MD-811 and was delighted by the results. With both my recently fired up System I (Manley 300B as preamp) or System II (Shindo Monbrisson as preamp), the sound was just as good, if not better than before. Compared to the SET Wavac, the midrange is just as transparent and sweet, whereas the treble is a tad smoother and the bass a tad more fulsome and rolling. Curiously, in my system, there is none of the overly smooth and somewhat restrained manner experienced at Kevin's. I double-checked with my Mangar Test CD, and everything sounded just wonderful. When I get the chance, I shall take this to Andy's place and give it another sounding. Grommes, like Bell, in an old name that has a solid reputation. But I kinda suspect many other 6V6 amps (though not all, as some are pretty flimsy) will sound great too with horns. For more on 6V6, read my Overview (here).
B&W Matrix 801 Mk II Towards the end of my stay in HK, I got re-acquainted with my B&W Matrix 801Mk II. After writing about it (here), I actually got to listen to it a lot more while cleaning house. The more I listen, the more I was impressed. What a deep sound! I actually heard more details than even my Tannoy Canterbury and TAD TD-3401. And that authoritative bass belies the woofer's relatively modest 12" diameter - it managed to sound like a 15" paper woofer, the best in my book. As this article gets ready, I learned that our friend Kevin has just scored a mint pair, so you can be sure of further reports. I am glad I'll get to hear them again imminently - I miss them!
Lowther TP-1 and VTL Straightline DAC/Preamp These are real gems, not a whit outdated in sound. See the same article for details.
Loudspeaker Placement continues to be an important issue, even for bulky horns, which tend to be left against the wall. Significant improvements were obtained with them further in-room, as witnessed in the Altec Systems of both R and Kevin (here).
Subwoofer Use Many systems would benefit from the addition of a subwoofer. ESL In the case of our friend WSS, the addition of a subwoofer (my REL) for his Quad 2812 was eminently audible, not for more solid bass per se, but for an added vitality, which is quite winning! 47 Labs 4737 Addition of subwoofer utterly transformed the 4737 from a great small loudspeaker to a full system!
Honorable Mentions 47 Labs 4737 This small loudspeaker with alnico magnets works a treat with solid state amplification, less so for tube amps (here), but it is with the addition of a Subwoofer that elevated it to the Pantheon. The result was so persuasive that I sold them to my ESL friend WSS! SMSL SA-36 Pro performed way beyond expectation. At my friend R's place, I'd rather listen to it than his Jadis and Cary (here). I suspect many T amps would do a similar job. Blue Velvet Preamp A cheap Chinese implementation of this (mainly) Dick Olsher design, a known DIY entity, was surprisingly good sounding.